This Architect Is Promoting Self-Sustaining Architecture Around the Globe

Louetta R. Clark

In 1972, architect Michael Reynolds came up with an unorthodox approach to solving what he perceived as a catastrophic ecological crisis. It was a mere two years after the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, long before conversations about eco-conscious design became fashionable. Still, the newly graduated architect took one look at the sheer volume of garbage the United States was producing and decided to take matters into his own hands—quite literally. The result was the Thumb House, a desert dwelling built out of roughly 70,000 discarded beer and soda cans that were wired and mortared together. “The Thumb House was all over the press, but it wasn’t a story about recycling. It was about a crazy idiot on the mesas of New Mexico building a home out of garbage,” Reynolds says with a laugh. “I was called a disgrace to the architectural community.”

Undeterred, Reynolds continued to tweak his

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